Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions of horror to World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.
Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past. In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.
A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness and irony concerning literary and social traditions, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc. Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.
After World War II (mainly the visual and performing arts)
While The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature states that modernism ended by c. 1939 with regard to British and American literature, “When (if) Modernism petered out and postmodernism began has been contested almost as hotly as when the transition from Victorianism to Modernism occurred.” Clement Greenberg sees modernism ending in the 1930s, with the exception of the visual and performing arts, but with regard to music, Paul Griffiths notes that, while Modernism “seemed to be a spent force” by the late 1920s, after World War II, “a new generation of composers—Boulez, Barraqué, Babbitt, Nono, Stockhausen, Xenakis” revived modernism”. In fact many literary Modernists lived into the 1950s and 1960s, though generally they were no longer producing major works. The term “late modernism” is also sometimes applied to Modernist works published after 1930. Among Modernists (or late Modernists) still publishing after 1945 were Wallace Stevens, Gottfried Benn, T. S. Eliot, Anna Akhmatova, William Faulkner, Dorothy Richardson, John Cowper Powys, and Ezra Pound. Basil Bunting, born in 1901, published his most important Modernist poem Briggflatts in 1965. In addition, Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil was published in 1945 and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus in 1947. Samuel Beckett, who died in 1989, has been described as a “later Modernist”. Beckett is a writer with roots in the expressionist tradition of Modernism, who produced works from the 1930s until the 1980s, including Molloy (1951), Waiting for Godot (1953), Happy Days (1961), and Rockaby (1981). The terms “minimalist” and “post-Modernist” have also been applied to his later works. The poets Charles Olson (1910–1970) and J. H. Prynne (born 1936) are among the writers in the second half of the 20th century who have been described as late Modernists.
More recently the term “late modernism” has been redefined by at least one critic and used to refer to works written after 1945, rather than 1930. With this usage goes the idea that the ideology of modernism was significantly re-shaped by the events of World War II, especially the Holocaust and the dropping of the atom bomb.
The postwar period left the capitals of Europe in upheaval with an urgency to economically and physically rebuild and to politically regroup. In Paris (the former center of European culture and the former capital of the art world) the climate for art was a disaster. Important collectors, dealers, and Modernist artists, writers, and poets had fled Europe for New York and America. The surrealists and modern artists from every cultural center of Europe had fled the onslaught of the Nazis for safe haven in the United States. Many of those who didn’t flee perished. A few artists, notably Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard, remained in France and survived.
The 1940s in New York City heralded the triumph of American abstract expressionism, a Modernist movement that combined lessons learned from Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, surrealism, Joan Miró, cubism, Fauvism, and early modernism via great teachers in America like Hans Hofmann and John D. Graham. American artists benefited from the presence of Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, Max Ernst and the André Breton group, Pierre Matisse’s gallery, and Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery The Art of This Century, as well as other factors.
Paris, moreover, recaptured much of its luster in the 1950s and 60s as the center of a machine art florescence, with both of the leading machine art sculptors Jean Tinguely and Nicolas Schöffer having moved there to launch their careers – and which florescence, in light of the technocentric character of modern life, may well have a particularly long lasting influence.
Theatre of the Absurd
The term “Theatre of the Absurd” is applied to plays, written primarily by Europeans, that express the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence. While there are significant precursors, including Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), the Theatre of the Absurd is generally seen as beginning in the 1950s with the plays of Samuel Beckett.
Critic Martin Esslin coined the term in his 1960 essay “Theatre of the Absurd”. He related these plays based on a broad theme of the Absurd, similar to the way Albert Camus uses the term in his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces. Though the term is applied to a wide range of plays, some characteristics coincide in many of the plays: broad comedy, often similar to vaudeville, mixed with horrific or tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of the “well-made play”.
Playwrights commonly associated with the Theatre of the Absurd include Samuel Beckett (1906–1989), Eugène Ionesco (1909–94), Jean Genet (1910–86), Harold Pinter (1930–2008), Tom Stoppard (born 1937), Alexander Vvedensky (1904–1941), Daniil Kharms (1905–1942), Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–90), Alejandro Jodorowsky (born 1929), Fernando Arrabal (born 1932), Václav Havel (1936–2011) and Edward Albee (1928–2016).
Pollock and abstract influences
During the late 1940s Jackson Pollock’s radical approach to painting revolutionized the potential for all contemporary art that followed him. To some extent Pollock realized that the journey toward making a work of art was as important as the work of art itself. Like Pablo Picasso’s innovative reinventions of painting and sculpture in the early 20th century via Cubism and constructed sculpture, Pollock redefined the way art is made. His move away from easel painting and conventionality was a liberating signal to the artists of his era and to all who came after. Artists realized that Jackson Pollock’s process—placing unstretched raw canvas on the floor where it could be attacked from all four sides using artistic and industrial materials; dripping and throwing linear skeins of paint; drawing, staining, and brushing; using imagery and nonimagery—essentially blasted artmaking beyond any prior boundary. Abstract expressionism generally expanded and developed the definitions and possibilities available to artists for the creation of new works of art.
The other abstract expressionists followed Pollock’s breakthrough with new breakthroughs of their own. In a sense the innovations of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Motherwell, Peter Voulkos and others opened the floodgates to the diversity and scope of all the art that followed them. Rereadings into abstract art by art historians such as Linda Nochlin, Griselda Pollock and Catherine de Zegher critically show, however, that pioneering women artists who produced major innovations in modern art had been ignored by official accounts of its history.
International figures from British art
Henry Moore (1898–1986) emerged after World War II as Britain’s leading sculptor. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures, usually suggestive of the female body, apart from a phase in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces.
In the 1950s, Moore began to receive increasingly significant commissions, including a reclining figure for the UNESCO building in Paris in 1958. With many more public works of art, the scale of Moore’s sculptures grew significantly. The last three decades of Moore’s life continued in a similar vein, with several major retrospectives taking place around the world, notably a prominent exhibition in the summer of 1972 in the grounds of the Forte di Belvedere overlooking Florence. By the end of the 1970s, there were some 40 exhibitions a year featuring his work. On the campus of the University of Chicago in December 1967, 25 years to the minute after the team of physicists led by Enrico Fermi achieved the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, Moore’s Nuclear Energy was unveiled. Also in Chicago, Moore commemorated science with a large bronze sundial, locally named Man Enters the Cosmos (1980), which was commissioned to recognise the space exploration program.
The “London School” of figurative painters, including Francis Bacon (1909–1992), Lucian Freud (1922–2011), Frank Auerbach (born 1931), Leon Kossoff (born 1926), and Michael Andrews (1928–1995), have received widespread international recognition.
Francis Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. His painterly but abstracted figures typically appear isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon began painting during his early 20s but worked only sporadically until his mid-30s. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion which sealed his reputation as a uniquely bleak chronicler of the human condition. His output can be crudely described as consisting of sequences or variations on a single motif; beginning with the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms, the early 1950s screaming popes, and mid to late 1950s animals and lone figures suspended in geometric structures. These were followed by his early 1960s modern variations of the crucifixion in the triptych format. From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Bacon mainly produced strikingly compassionate portraits of friends. Following the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971, his art became more personal, inward-looking, and preoccupied with themes and motifs of death. During his lifetime, Bacon was equally reviled and acclaimed.
Lucian Freud was a German-born British painter, known chiefly for his thickly impastoed portrait and figure paintings, who was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time. His works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model. According to William Grimes of the New York Times, “Lucien Freud and his contemporaries transformed figure painting in the 20th century. In paintings like Girl with a White Dog (1951-52), Freud put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people—many of them his friends—stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection.”
In the 1960s after abstract expressionism
In abstract painting during the 1950s and 1960s several new directions like hard-edge painting and other forms of geometric abstraction began to appear in artist studios and in radical avant-garde circles as a reaction against the subjectivism of abstract expressionism. Clement Greenberg became the voice of post-painterly abstraction when he curated an influential exhibition of new painting that toured important art museums throughout the United States in 1964. Color Field painting, hard-edge painting and lyrical abstraction emerged as radical new directions.
By the late 1960s however, postminimalism, process art and Arte Povera also emerged as revolutionary concepts and movements that encompassed both painting and sculpture, via lyrical abstraction and the postminimalist movement, and in early conceptual art. Process art as inspired by Pollock enabled artists to experiment with and make use of a diverse encyclopedia of style, content, material, placement, sense of time, and plastic and real space. Nancy Graves, Ronald Davis, Howard Hodgkin, Larry Poons, Jannis Kounellis, Brice Marden, Colin McCahon, Bruce Nauman, Richard Tuttle, Alan Saret, Walter Darby Bannard, Lynda Benglis, Dan Christensen, Larry Zox, Ronnie Landfield, Eva Hesse, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Sam Gilliam, Mario Merz and Peter Reginato were some of the younger artists who emerged during the era of late modernism that spawned the heyday of the art of the late 1960s.
In 1962 the Sidney Janis Gallery mounted The New Realists, the first major pop art group exhibition in an uptown art gallery in New York City. Janis mounted the exhibition in a 57th Street storefront near his gallery at 15 E. 57th Street. The show sent shockwaves through the New York School and reverberated worldwide. Earlier in England in 1958 the term “Pop Art” was used by Lawrence Alloway to describe paintings that celebrated the consumerism of the post World War II era. This movement rejected abstract expressionism and its focus on the hermeneutic and psychological interior in favor of art that depicted and often celebrated material consumer culture, advertising, and iconography of the mass production age. The early works of David Hockney and the works of Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi (who created the groundbreaking I was a Rich Man’s Plaything, 1947) are considered seminal examples in the movement. Meanwhile, in the downtown scene in New York’s East Village 10th Street galleries, artists were formulating an American version of pop art. Claes Oldenburg had his storefront, and the Green Gallery on 57th Street began to show the works of Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist. Later Leo Castelli exhibited the works of other American artists, including those of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein for most of their careers. There is a connection between the radical works of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, the rebellious Dadaists with a sense of humor, and pop artists like Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein, whose paintings reproduce the look of Ben-Day dots, a technique used in commercial reproduction.
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, wherein artists intend to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all nonessential forms, features, or concepts. Minimalism is any design or style wherein the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.
As a specific movement in the arts it is identified with developments in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with this movement include Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Ronald Bladen, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It derives from the reductive aspects of modernism and is often interpreted as a reaction against Abstract expressionism and a bridge to Postminimal art practices. By the early 1960s minimalism emerged as an abstract movement in art (with roots in the geometric abstraction of Kazimir Malevich, the Bauhaus and Piet Mondrian) that rejected the idea of relational and subjective painting, the complexity of abstract expressionist surfaces, and the emotional zeitgeist and polemics present in the arena of action painting. Minimalism argued that extreme simplicity could capture all of the sublime representation needed in art. Minimalism is variously construed either as a precursor to postmodernism, or as a postmodern movement itself. In the latter perspective, early minimalism yielded advanced Modernist works, but the movement partially abandoned this direction when some artists like Robert Morris changed direction in favor of the anti-form movement.
Hal Foster, in his essay The Crux of Minimalism, examines the extent to which Donald Judd and Robert Morris both acknowledge and exceed Greenbergian Modernism in their published definitions of minimalism. He argues that minimalism is not a “dead end” of Modernism, but a “paradigm shift toward postmodern practices that continue to be elaborated today.”
The terms have expanded to encompass a movement in music that features such repetition and iteration as those of the compositions of La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Adams. Minimalist compositions are sometimes known as systems music. The term “minimalist” often colloquially refers to anything that is spare or stripped to its essentials. It has also been used to describe the plays and novels of Samuel Beckett, the films of Robert Bresson, the stories of Raymond Carver, and the automobile designs of Colin Chapman.
In the late 1960s Robert Pincus-Witten coined the term “postminimalism” to describe minimalist-derived art which had content and contextual overtones that minimalism rejected. The term was applied by Pincus-Whitten to the work of Eva Hesse, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra and new work by former minimalists Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt, Barry Le Va, and others. Other minimalists including Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, John McCracken and others continued to produce late Modernist paintings and sculpture for the remainders of their careers.
Since then, many artists have embraced minimal or postminimal styles, and the label “Postmodern” has been attached to them.
Collage, assemblage, installations
Related to abstract expressionism was the emergence of combining manufactured items with artist materials, moving away from previous conventions of painting and sculpture. The work of Robert Rauschenberg exemplifies this trend. His “combines” of the 1950s were forerunners of pop art and installation art, and used assemblages of large physical objects, including stuffed animals, birds and commercial photographs. Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, George Segal, Jim Dine, and Edward Kienholz were among important pioneers of both abstraction and pop art. Creating new conventions of art-making, they made acceptable in serious contemporary art circles the radical inclusion in their works of unlikely materials. Another pioneer of collage was Joseph Cornell, whose more intimately scaled works were seen as radical because of both his personal iconography and his use of found objects.
In the early 20th century Marcel Duchamp submitted for exhibition a urinal as a sculpture. He professed his intent that people look at the urinal as if it were a work of art because he said it was a work of art. He referred to his work as “readymades”. Fountain was a urinal signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt”, the exhibition of which shocked the art world in 1917. This and Duchamp’s other works are generally labelled as Dada. Duchamp can be seen as a precursor to conceptual art, other famous examples being John Cage’s 4’33”, which is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence, and Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing. Many conceptual works take the position that art is the result of the viewer viewing an object or act as art, not of the intrinsic qualities of the work itself. In choosing “an ordinary article of life” and creating “a new thought for that object” Duchamp invited onlookers to view Fountain as a sculpture.
Marcel Duchamp famously gave up “art” in favor of chess. Avant-garde composer David Tudor created a piece, Reunion (1968), written jointly with Lowell Cross, that features a chess game in which each move triggers a lighting effect or projection. Duchamp and Cage played the game at the work’s premier.
Steven Best and Douglas Kellner identify Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns as part of the transitional phase, influenced by Duchamp, between Modernism and Postmodernism. Both used images of ordinary objects, or the objects themselves, in their work, while retaining the abstraction and painterly gestures of high Modernism.
Performance and happenings
During the late 1950s and 1960s artists with a wide range of interests began to push the boundaries of contemporary art. Yves Klein in France, Carolee Schneemann, Yayoi Kusama, Charlotte Moorman and Yoko Ono in New York City, and Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik in Germany were pioneers of performance-based works of art. Groups like The Living Theatre with Julian Beck and Judith Malina collaborated with sculptors and painters creating environments, radically changing the relationship between audience and performer, especially in their piece Paradise Now. The Judson Dance Theater, located at the Judson Memorial Church, New York; and the Judson dancers, notably Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Elaine Summers, Sally Gross, Simonne Forti, Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton and others; collaborated with artists Robert Morris, Robert Whitman, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and engineers like Billy Klüver. Park Place Gallery was a center for musical performances by electronic composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and other notable performance artists including Joan Jonas.
These performances were intended as works of a new art form combining sculpture, dance, and music or sound, often with audience participation. They were characterized by the reductive philosophies of minimalism and the spontaneous improvisation and expressivity of abstract expressionism. Images of Schneeman’s performances of pieces meant to shock are occasionally used to illustrate these kinds of art, and she is often seen photographed while performing her piece Interior Scroll. However, the images of her performing this piece are illustrating precisely what performance art is not. In performance art, the performance itself is the medium. Other media cannot illustrate performance art. Performance art is performed, not captured. By its nature performance is momentary and evanescent, which is part of the point of the medium as art. Representations of performance art in other media, whether by image, video, narrative or otherwise, select certain points of view in space or time or otherwise involve the inherent limitations of each medium, and which therefore cannot truly illustrate the medium of performance as art.
During the same period, various avant-garde artists created Happenings, mysterious and often spontaneous and unscripted gatherings of artists and their friends and relatives in various specified locations, often incorporating exercises in absurdity, physicality, costuming, spontaneous nudity, and various random or seemingly disconnected acts. Notable creators of happenings included Allan Kaprow—who first used the term in 1958, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and Robert Whitman.
Another trend in art which has been associated with the term postmodern is the use of a number of different media together. Intermedia is a term coined by Dick Higgins and meant to convey new art forms along the lines of Fluxus, concrete poetry, found objects, performance art, and computer art. Higgins was the publisher of the Something Else Press, a concrete poet married to artist Alison Knowles and an admirer of Marcel Duchamp. Ihab Hassan includes “Intermedia, the fusion of forms, the confusion of realms,” in his list of the characteristics of postmodern art. One of the most common forms of “multi-media art” is the use of video-tape and CRT monitors, termed video art. While the theory of combining multiple arts into one art is quite old, and has been revived periodically, the postmodern manifestation is often in combination with performance art, where the dramatic subtext is removed, and what is left is the specific statements of the artist in question or the conceptual statement of their action.
Fluxus was named and loosely organized in 1962 by George Maciunas (1931–78), a Lithuanian-born American artist. Fluxus traces its beginnings to John Cage’s 1957 to 1959 Experimental Composition classes at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Many of his students were artists working in other media with little or no background in music. Cage’s students included Fluxus founding members Jackson Mac Low, Al Hansen, George Brecht and Dick Higgins.
Fluxus encouraged a do-it-yourself aesthetic and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. Fluxus artists preferred to work with whatever materials were at hand, and either created their own work or collaborated in the creation process with their colleagues.
Andreas Huyssen criticises attempts to claim Fluxus for Postmodernism as “either the master-code of postmodernism or the ultimately unrepresentable art movement – as it were, postmodernism’s sublime.” Instead he sees Fluxus as a major Neo-Dadaist phenomena within the avant-garde tradition. It did not represent a major advance in the development of artistic strategies, though it did express a rebellion against “the administered culture of the 1950s, in which a moderate, domesticated modernism served as ideological prop to the Cold War.”
The continuation of abstract expressionism, color field painting, lyrical abstraction, geometric abstraction, minimalism, abstract illusionism, process art, pop art, postminimalism, and other late 20th-century Modernist movements in both painting and sculpture continued through the first decade of the 21st century and constitute radical new directions in those mediums.
At the turn of the 21st century, well-established artists such as Sir Anthony Caro, Lucian Freud, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Agnes Martin, Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, James Rosenquist, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, and younger artists including Brice Marden, Chuck Close, Sam Gilliam, Isaac Witkin, Sean Scully, Mahirwan Mamtani, Joseph Nechvatal, Elizabeth Murray, Larry Poons, Richard Serra, Walter Darby Bannard, Larry Zox, Ronnie Landfield, Ronald Davis, Dan Christensen, Joel Shapiro, Tom Otterness, Joan Snyder, Ross Bleckner, Archie Rand, Susan Crile, and others continued to produce vital and influential paintings and sculpture.
Differences between modernism and postmodernism
By the early 1980s the Postmodern movement in art and architecture began to establish its position through various conceptual and intermedia formats. Postmodernism in music and literature began to take hold earlier. In music, postmodernism is described in one reference work, as a “term introduced in the 1970s”, while in British literature, The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature sees modernism “ceding its predominance to postmodernism” as early as 1939. However, dates are highly debatable, especially as according to Andreas Huyssen: “one critic’s postmodernism is another critic’s modernism.” This includes those who are critical of the division between the two and see them as two aspects of the same movement, and believe that late Modernism continues.
Modernism is an encompassing label for a wide variety of cultural movements. Postmodernism is essentially a centralized movement that named itself, based on sociopolitical theory, although the term is now used in a wider sense to refer to activities from the 20th century onwards which exhibit awareness of and reinterpret the modern.
Postmodern theory asserts that the attempt to canonise Modernism “after the fact” is doomed to undisambiguable contradictions.
In a narrower sense, what was Modernist was not necessarily also postmodern. Those elements of Modernism which accentuated the benefits of rationality and socio-technological progress were only Modernist.
Modernism in Africa and Asia
“Modernist concepts, especially aesthetic autonomy, were fundamental to the literature of decolonization in anglophone Africa.” Rajat Neogy, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka, were among the writer who “repurposed modernist versions of aesthetic autonomy to declare their freedom from colonial bondage, from systems of racial discrimination, and even from the new postcolonial state”.
The terms “modernism” and “modernist” “have only recently become part of the standard discourse in English on modern Japanese literature and doubts concerning their authenticity vis-a-vis Western European modernism remain”. This is odd given “the decidedly modan prose” of such “well-known Japanese writers as Kawabata Yasunari, Nagai Kafu, and Jun’ichirō Tanizaki”. However, “scholars in the visual and fine arts, architecture, and poetry readily embraced “modanizumu” as a key concept for describing and analyzing Japanese culture in the 1920s and 1930s”.
In 1924, various young writers, including Kawabata Yasunari, Riichi Yokomitsu started a literary journal Bungei Jidai (“The Artistic Age”). This journal was “part of an ‘art for art’s sake’ movement, influenced by European Cubism, Expressionism, Dada, and other modernist styles”.
Japanese modernist architect Kenzō Tange (1913 – 2005} was one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, combining traditional Japanese styles with modernism, and designed major buildings on five continents. Tange was also an influential patron of the Metabolist movement. He said: “It was, I believe, around 1959 or at the beginning of the sixties that I began to think about what I was later to call structuralism”, He was influenced from an early age by the Swiss modernist, Le Corbusier, Tange gained international recognition in 1949 when he won the competition for the design of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
In China the “New Sensationists” (新感觉派) were a group of writers based in Shanghai who in the 1930s and 1940s were influenced, to varying degrees, by Western and Japanese modernism. They wrote fiction that was more concerned with the unconscious and with aesthetics than with politics or social problems. Among these writers were Mu Shiying, Liu Na’ou, and Shi Zhecun.
The Progressive Artists’ Group was a group of modern artists, mainly based in Mumbai, India formed in 1947. Though it lacked any particular style, it synthesised Indian art with European and North America influences from the first half of the 20th Century, including Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Expressionism.
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